Using smart building technologies to achieve sustainability targets
KvalhoTalks with Agustin Garcia del Castillo Calvo
Sustainability Manager | Siemens AG
Welcome to KVALHO TALKS a series of interviews and discussions with experts, innovators and entrepreneurs within the AEC & real estate industries.
This time I travelled to the global HQ of Siemens Building Technologies in Zug to speak to Agustin Garcia del Castillo Calvo - Sustainability Manager. Agustin shares with us the details how smart building technologies and digitalization of buildings can help us to accelerate the achievement of sustainability targets while creating perfect places for people.

Enjoy reading!

Could you please give a short introduction to Siemens Building Technologies and describe your role within the company?
Siemens Building Technologies is one of seven divisions of Siemens AG. As a system integrator, service provider and a product vendor, it offers energy-efficient, safe and secure building products and solutions.
I have a dual role at Siemens: I am Sustainability Manager and at the same time I am responsible for the business development of building performance for real estate owners and investors. I am an architect by background and for the majority of my career I have worked directly for real estate developers and real estate funds. A few years ago, I developed an interest in digitalization and its role in improving the processes for real estate. This led me to joining the team at Siemens.

Siemens Building Technologies motto is "Creating Perfect Places" through digitalisation. What does this mean exactly?

We always put the user of the building in the centre of our focus. Each of our customers define what their perfect place is. It is a place where they can achieve everything that they want to. For many of our customers that means a modern, efficient, safe and sustainable place. It's our mission to help our customers achieve their perfect place. Since we serve clients from various sectors from industrial, healthcare, education, offices to shopping centres, every client can relate to this motto differently, whether their perfect place is to: produce, shop, study, work, teach, play, heal or dance, we help them achieve this.
For us digitalisation is the ''tool'' to creating ''perfect places''.
Who are your clients and how do you bring value to them?
Our clients range from real estate investors, industry conglomerates and healthcare providers to public institutions (universities and municipalities) as well as local, single building owners. We work closely with them to help them achieve greater efficiency within their (smart) buildings. For example, we work closely with Sello Shopping Centre in Finland. Leveraging data from energy efficiency and HVAC systems, air quality and temperature sensors, occupancy rates and weather data, we identified areas for improvement and delivered a comprehensive optimization program for Sello's building systems that's focused on energy consumption and air quality.
Sello was able to reduce its district heating by 50%, Co2 emission by 20% and annual costs by 120K.
When is the best moment to engage Siemens in a new building project`?
As soon as possible. We are not architects, and we don't influence the design of the building, but we support them in understanding what data needs to be collected for the client, what data will be important in the future for a particular building and what is the right equipment for collecting the right and useful data. We have worked using this process on our new Siemens HQ in Zug, which proved to be very successful. Thanks to our Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology, we can not only work simultaneously with the entire design team, but also create a digital twin of the building and simulate different scenarios of its behavior before it even exists.
We can check how the building behaves if the outside temperature rises, if the number of building occupants increases, and what influence this will have upon the maintenance, efficiency, energy usage and CO2 footprint. We predict the behaviors of the building to prevent unwanted situations in the future.
Can the performance of an existing building be improved by use of technology? What is the process?
First thing we need to do for such a building is to connect it, to be able to extract all the data and understand the current ''behavior'' of the building. As we like to say, buildings are talking to us, and we need to understand them. What does this mean?
Turning data into insights, and insights into action
For this we need connectivity to extract all the data. In an existing building we start with the connectivity. As a first step we map all the data points, connect them and collect relevant data. Next, we run our analytics tools together with our expertise in building performance to extract the insights from the data. Based on this we can make decisions and implement actions about how to best achieve a customer's sustainability targets in the long run leading to a substantial savings. In 2018, we had more than 230,000 data points connected, across more than 3000 clients in 30 countries, which allows us to compare and analyze data, see trends and "listen" to the buildings in different ways.
How exactly do you help clients achieving better sustainability by using technology?
We first need to understand what a client wants to achieve by using our solutions, therefore we like to work with them from the very beginning of the project, to understand the strategic perspective. We sit together and review the internal processes, look at the facilities, the equipment, its consumption and the overall efficiency of the business. Then we help them to set the sustainability targets. They might want to be carbon neutral in the next 10 years or reduce energy by 30% or be more efficient and reduce maintenance in all facilities. Basically, we help our clients to set a clear goal. Once this is established, we start working on the implementation and concrete measures, leading to facility improvement. I work directly with real estate investors who have large real estate portfolios globally. They have very ambitious targets regarding energy consumption and sustainability of their real estate. We help them to achieve these targets through technologies and innovation. For example, we worked closely with Credit Suisse to lower its CO2 emissions amongst 1,000 of its buildings in Switzerland.
Sustainability is a big focus of Siemens. What does sustainability mean for Siemens and how do you apply your sustainability agenda to every day work?
At Siemens Building Technologies, we're raising the bar on sustainability. We are deeply committed to our environment, society at-large, and responsible business practices. We are taking action to reduce climate impacts across our entire value chain and are doing the same for many of our customer's buildings and real-estate portfolios. Siemens has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and halving its CO2 footprint by 2020. Siemens BT is a key contributor in the roll-out and implementation of decarbonization through its Energy Efficiency Program (EEP) and distributed energy system. Currently we are investing €100 million in energy efficiency projects and around €45 million in distributed energy systems.
How do you measure impact of digital technologies on building performance?
Digitalization is equally as important for a building as it is for its user. We ask questions such as 'How does the building improve comfort or productivity of the user?'. For example, we will look at how these buildings might have a positive impact on people's comfort, which as a result leads to a significant improvement of their productivity.
In our HQ building in Zug, we are using technologies provided by a company we recently acquired – Building Robotics and its app Comfy. Every employee working in this building can modify the temperature and lighting in their workspace through a mobile app.
The initial focus is on temperature control, real-time and location-based user feedback. Comfy is vendor agnostic which allows enterprises to use it across their full portfolio without being locked in to a specific vendor. The app is "sticky" in a sense that the majority of users are using it constantly. I am a user of this building and I very much enjoy that I can tailor the light to my own needs and liking. So it's not only about the building, but about the user as well. You might ask how can we track productivity? It's hard to measure this by a number but it's possible to measure talent retention, reduction of sick days taken, etc. At the end of the day is global performance and user satisfaction. Of course, we can track the hard measures like energy consumption savings but let's also not forget about the people and how we can help them to be more productive and comfortable, which at the end has a direct impact on the business performance!

We hear a lot about Smart Buildings. Can you explain what makes a building ''smart''?

By our definition, smart buildings are based on big data and data analytics.
It is a building that can predict behaviour, where we can guarantee operational efficiency, and which allows for flexible usage.
Of course, we don't look at a building as a single, isolated asset. Smart buildings are connected to the energy grid. We call them prosumers - (a combination of producer + consumer) – because they not only consume but also produce and often store their own energy.
What trends and innovations in real estate do you see? What has the most potential?

We have identified four trends in the real estate industry and are actively investing and developing these trends:
1. IoT & Cloud – we have been very active in this field and recently acquired a company in the IoT field, located in Silicon Valley, Enlighted. Enlighted sensors are the most sophisticated software-defined sensors in the industry, capturing and combining multiple streams of data. Then, real-time data is turned into actionable insights for smarter decisions in managing lighting, HVAC, space and safety.
2. AI – how to make buildings more efficient and smarter by using artificial intelligence. This allows us to predict and avoid malfunctions by defining rules and machine learning tools.
3. Data Analytics – understanding the data collected from buildings. It is all about smart data, not big data. We focus on collecting and analysing data which is beneficial to the specific needs of the client.
4. Decentralized energy systems and buildings being prosumers.
What will the building industry look like in 2030 ?
Buildings will be connected and they will part of a grid. Fast response to client demands, resilience, flexibility and adaptability of buildings to user's needs will be taken into consideration more often. And Al (artificial intelligence) will be high on the agenda.